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Gearóid Farrelly: 'You're never going to coast in Cork'

Dublin comedian Gearóid Farrelly is professing his love for Cork and assuring me that he’s not pandering.

I want to believe him but about 10 seconds into our interview, I did warn him that any mild feelings about Cork would lead to him being cancelled, at least with this writer.

“I really love Cork,” he says. “I’ve been gigging here for years and it’s such a great place because the audience doesn’t take any crap... You’re never going to go down there and just coast.”

He’s speaking ahead of a return to The Everyman stage with his show Glamour Hammer in October, back by popular demand after a sold-out show in the same spot in January.

Much like his pal Joanne McNally, whom he has supported on much of her seemingly never-ending Prosecco Express tour, Gearóid is getting used to the sold-out badge of honour.

But while he is making a living out of comedy now, it didn’t always seem possible.

“People say that you’re only one gig away from the big break but that break wasn’t coming. At some point, you have to stop sitting around and pinning everything on the dream. I was just fortunate with the way things worked out,” he says.

“It’s very hard. You’ve got to do your time.”

And that he has — the funnyman has opened for everyone from Sarah Millican to Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, Patton Oswalt and the late Joan Rivers.

The call-up for the latter gig was an absolute career game-changer, he says.

The late Joan Rivers gave Gearóid a masterclass in enjoyinf touring and 'really cared about her fans'
The late Joan Rivers gave Gearóid a masterclass in enjoyinf touring and 'really cared about her fans'

“It feels like it happened to another person,” he recalls.

“You’re so full of hope and then basically you spend the whole time getting that hope kicked out of you, going; ‘what am I doing with my life?’ It all seemed like a waste of my time.

“It was about a week after Edinburgh [Fringe Festival]. I got a call saying that Joan Rivers had a show in Dublin and she needed someone to open and would I submit a tape. I just presumed I’d never hear back.”

Joan loved his tape and Gearóid got the gig. After two successful nights opening for the comedy icon, he was asked to play support on her UK tour.

Rivers often joked that she had had so much plastic surgery, her body would posthumously be donated to Tupperware. That self-deprecating wit could be acerbic when turned outward but what was she like offstage?

“An absolute lady. She was very much a hostess. She kept everybody entertained backstage; she was just insistent that we all have a good time. She would be having a glass of wine and cheese (brie, always brie) while she was getting her makeup done.”

For Gearóid, this was a masterclass in how to enjoy touring.

“I was new to comedy. I was very green. I was working in the IT department of an insurance company at the time.”

Rivers really cared about her fans, Gearóid remembers, recalling one particular incident in Vicar St.

“She found this guy who tweeted that nobody would go to the gig with him. She brought him up on stage and gave him a Joan Ranger badge and packed up about €100 of fancy cheeses for him to bring back to his hotel.”

Gearóid is getting used to sell-out shows. Picture: David Creedon
Gearóid is getting used to sell-out shows. Picture: David Creedon

Gearóid might be selling out gigs now but at the beginning, things looked a lot different.

“It’s hard graft and hustle. I think it’s kind of a cult. It’s a real quick way to spend every single penny you earn that year.”

Gearóid has been nominated for and won a number of awards but he says “all of that stuff means absolutely nothing” to him.

If he could get away with gigging without the schmoozing, he’d be perfectly happy.

“I am somebody who loves stand up. I love the actual job in front of me but hate everything about the industry. In Ireland, we get a little bit hoodwinked by what we perceive celebrities to be.”

A celebrity complex, Gearóid certainly does not have, and he believes it is important for him and other comics to use their hard-earned success to help those coming up behind them.

“Maeve Higgins was just amazing for me,” he says, calling out the Cobh-born comic. “She took me on tour before I was ready. That’s the way it should be in the arts because we all get a bite of the cherry and then it goes away.”

Joanne McNally was another key player in his success in the comedy world, having convinced him to keep going when he was close to giving up. It was 2020, and he had enrolled on a postgraduate in IT development following the cancellation of his tour due to covid-19 restrictions.

“I was doing exams in the spare room. Joanne was saying; ‘nope, you’re sticking to this,” he recalls.

Thankfully, she managed to convince him to support her on the Proessco Express Tour and the rest is history.

“I’m so grateful to her,” he says.

Gearóid with friends Brendan Courtney and Joanne McNally
Gearóid with friends Brendan Courtney and Joanne McNally

And is she as mischievous and fun as she comes across, I wonder? Even more so, he says.

“Joanne is absolutely the best craic. The stuff we did on tour will stay under lock and key.”

When it comes to his personal life, his relationship with his partner is something else he likes to keep private. But, there is another love he is happy to talk about infinitely.

It’s Boots, his moody rogue of a cat, whom he previously gushed to the Irish Examiner about having toilet-trained (his proudest achievement). How is Boots doing these days?

“My cat is on an extreme diet at the moment,” he says.

“I noticed a while ago that she was a bit scrawny so I took her to the vet and they said she was obese.”

So, what’s it like living with a teenage cat on a diet?

When it comes to what Cork audiences can expect from the show on October 20, Gearóid has a list.

“Glamour Hammer is an hour of things that annoy me, things I wish I was better at and things that didn’t really work out.”

Describing himself as “bitter candy floss”, he says the show is “funny, but there’s a bit of a bite”.

He’s conscious of the fact that where shows have an “edgy theme,” people can look to take things out of context. But, as to whether he might follow Tommy Tiernan’s lead with a no-phone policy he says he couldn’t “be arsed”.

Gearóid supported Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness
Gearóid supported Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness

One thing he will never shy away from, however, is identifying himself as a “gay comedian”.

“It is important to actually say you’re a gay comedian because there isn’t a lot of us around and I think that there is more than one gay perspective.”

When he started on the comedy circuit, a lot of people told him he was getting gigs because of his sexuality.

“People said; ‘Oh, well, you’re the only gay comedian. So obviously, you’re getting things because of that. Who the hell wants that? Get lost!”

While Gearóid doesn’t go straight for the jugular in case of offending, he does believe it’s important to show “other ways of being a man” in his comedy.

“There is this notion that men are under threat because now we can cry. That’s rubbish.”

Still, when it comes to the role of comedy in weighing in on the “hot topics” of the day, Gearóid isn’t so sure it’s what audiences want to see.

“What has happened in comedy over the past ten years is that everyone is bringing their personal trauma — we all feel that we have to be addressing all of these big issues.

“When people go to comedy, they don’t want shit thrown at them. What they want is what we used to get from mass — an hour out of your own head where you let somebody else have the wheel for a while.

“It really undervalues comedy to say that an hour out of your own head is not a valuable thing. It’s not something we have to infuse with; ‘remember this’ messages.”

Gearóid Farrelly's Glamour Hammer tour returns to The Everyman on Friday, October 20. Tickets from €25, everymancork.com